Yet another of Taiwan's diplomatic allies has been lost. Panama announced yesterday at 9AM Taipei time that it was establishing diplomatic relations with China. At the same time, a joint communiqué between Panama and China was being signed in Beijing. Back in Taiwan, Foreign Minister David Lee expressed anger and regret at the decision, and at 10:30AM, he announced the break off of relations with Panama. President Tsai Ing-wen called a press conference in the afternoon, criticizing Beijing's diplomatic hostility.
Panama was one of the countries visited by President Tsai Ing-wen in her first overseas tour. However, it has now chosen to establish relations with China, making it the second of Taiwan's allies after Sao Tome and Principe to switch recognition since Tsai took office. In a press conference, Tsai made a statement to Beijing that Taiwan will not bargain away its sovereignty or compromise in the face of threats.
==TSAI ING-WEN President==
We are a sovereign state, and our sovereignty is not to be challenged or bargained away. I am stating to the authorities in Beijing, that Taiwan has done all that it can to maintain peace and stability across the Strait. However, Beijing's actions have greatly affected the currently stable status quo. This is unacceptable to the Taiwanese people. We will not sit idly as our country's interests are repeatedly threatened and challenged.
At 9 am on June 13, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela officially announced that his country was establishing diplomatic ties with China and unilaterally severing ties with Taiwan.
==JUAN CARLOS VARELA Panamanian President==
I am confident that this is the right time to consolidate China-Panama relations. Both our countries are developing nations with a common vision. Taiwan was a great friend to Panama and we are sincerely grateful for their friendship and their assistance in Panama's development.
At the same time, China's Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi met with Panama's Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Isabel Saint Malo in Beijing, where the two countries signed a joint communiqué.
==WANG YI China's Minister of Foreign Affairs==
Effective immediately, the Republic of Panama breaks off its so-called diplomatic relationship with the Taiwanese authority and promises to never establish any official ties with Taiwan.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately broke off relations with Panama.
==DAVID LEE ROC Minister of Foreign Affairs==
To maintain the sovereignty and dignity of our country, we have decided effective immediately to terminate diplomatic ties with the Republic of Panama. All bilateral cooperation and assistance will cease, and embassy and technical delegation staff will be withdrawn.
Media sources from Panama reported that the country was establishing ties with China as early as 8AM Taiwan time, with an official announcement coming at 9, the same time the joint communiqué was signed. Taiwan announced that it was breaking off relations with Panama at 10:30. Taiwan knew of the impending switch at 4AM, and President Tsai called a cabinet meeting at 8 in response. Though some accused the government of lacking awareness of the issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Taiwan worked to preserve ties until the last minute, while Panama lied about its intentions to the end. MOFA and the Mainland Affairs Council jointly called an emergency press conference, while Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu expressed Taiwan's regret and anger at the turn of events.
==JOSEPH WU Sec.-Gen., Presidential Office==
This is not only a public threat to the existence of the Taiwanese people, it is also a deliberate provocation of the peace and stability across the Strait and in the region. We condemn this in the strongest terms.
With China's suppression at every turn, Taiwan's diplomacy is facing an unprecedented crisis.
Translated by JOHN CHEN